As the reality of COVID-19 sets in for Americans, we had some questions for our CEO, Kit Hughes. Here are his thoughts on digital connection strategies, corporate responsibility in a time of crisis, and making the most of our time at home.
Look Listen (LL): As a digital agency that prides itself on being at the forefront of tech-based solutions, how can we show leadership in a situation like this, where digital connections become the only option?
Kit Hughes (KH): Lots of people in our line of work — employees and clients alike — work from home or across different locations. The very nature of our business demands that we form strong relationships with others remotely. While we certainly can (and do) communicate effectively through email, instant messaging and other productivity technologies, they can be limiting. Video conferencing, however, allows us to experience others’ voices and body language, adding context that words on a page cannot. While it may not be as quick as a Slack message and requires a little more prep than a conference call, we can show real leadership by implementing video conferencing as a standard practice both internally and for our business partners.
LL: In addition to maximizing digital connections, what is our responsibility to our clients when it comes to doing the right thing in times of crisis? How do we ensure we make decisions that are based on both good business and good values?
KH: In thinking about this question I’m reminded of a quote from The Consulting Bible: “Our job is to improve the client’s condition.” We’re in this business to help people, and we always want to feel like we’re an extension of our clients’ team. As a company that was started at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, Look Listen is no stranger to challenging and uncertain times. Our default mode is to be highly responsive and over the last few weeks, that hasn’t changed at all. In fact, our clients are reaching out for support and guidance because of our reputation for fast response and our natural ability to deliver.
Additionally, as Conscious Capitalists, we seek clients who can be true partners, and whose values align with ours, limiting our time spent on crises of conscience. Our clients value our honesty; however, if we’re ever put in a situation where our values are met with a moral dilemma, the decision to walk away from that relationship would be an easy one. Values and integrity are what make our company strong.
Our job is to improve the client’s condition.Alan Weiss
LL: Are there opportunities for unique types of engagement when you have more people at home, and those digital, human, or some combination thereof?
KH: One thing I’ve noticed in our own culture is a creativity in the approach to daily communication. Meme sharing, for example, can lighten the mood even when discussing topics that are more serious and appear to be black and white. Photos, GIFs and emojis can also be a welcome break from a tough moment or heads-down grind. One of our employees recently created emojis from team headshots to represent us in Slack, adding funny descriptors for each. This kind of creativity serves as an outlet, and brings people together, even with physical distance. At this point, I’m more concerned about the anxiety of the population than I am about the virus. Finding ways to connect, however silly they seem on the surface, should be championed.
LL: While the technological solutions may be in place to handle prolonged social distancing, this crisis is shining a light on very real flaws in our country’s emergency infrastructure — kids get their meals at school, companies don’t provide paid leave for gig and part-time workers, etc. How can we as corporate citizens be a part of the broader solution?
KH: I say often: We’re all in this together. With that mindset, I believe this is a time where information should be continuously shared without economic interest. Withholding information can be destructive, where experience is a valuable teacher. I’ve made it a point to speak with CEOs of different businesses in a round table, sharing what we can take from our past experiences to put towards the situation today. This culture of communication and transparency — not the virus — will inform how we handle our business. Moving forward, our worth as leaders will be measured on our response to crisis. Companies that haven’t responded well will have to answer for that, for the good of us all.
LL: As Kit Hughes the human — not Kit Hughes the CEO — what is something positive that you can look forward in what might be a prolonged period of time at home?
KH: In short: Throwing a football with my son. To expand on that, my daily commute is almost two hours and I’m generally in the office or traveling for work on weekdays. Time at home gives me at least an hour extra a day to spend time with my children that would normally be spent in the car. We’ll be playing games, drawing — we all love to draw — reading, and more. My schedule is demanding, so however tough social distancing will be for all of us, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to cultivate a little more connection at home.